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Volver (2006) Directed Pedro Almodovar movie review
The film opens with a shot of women polishing gravestones in a small Spanish town where wind blows fiercely. With this, Volver directed by Pedro Almodovar establishes the context of the film – the relationship of the living with the dead. The Spanish translation of the title Volver is literally 'to come back' or 'returning'. This refers to the traditions of death in Pedro Almodovar's native region La Mancha. The people there believe that the dead never really die.
Volver (2006) Directed Pedro Almodovar: Plot
The movie is about Raimunda (Penelope Cruz), her sister Sole (Lola Dueñas), her daughter Paula (Yohana Cobo), her neighbor Augustine (Blanca Portillo), her dead but returning mother Irene (Carmen Maura) and how these three generations of women counter cultural madness, eccentricity and superstition with an unmatched zest for life. Raimunda, her daughter and sister come to the village of Alcanfor de las Infantas from Madrid to visit their mother's grave. There they meet their eccentric aunt who tells them that their mother Irene is still alive. On their return to Madrid, Raimunda's daughter kills her unemployed father Paco who tried to rape her. Raimunda hides the body in the refrigerator of the neighbor's restaurant that she manages.
Meanwhile, Raimunda's sister Sole gets news of their aunt in the village passing away. She travels there to pay her last respects and on her way back, finds her dead mother Irene in the trunk of her car. Irene then reveals hidden secrets from the past to her daughters. Some of the many questions that the ghostly Irene unravels are whether Paco was really the biological father of Raimunda's daughter or not, how the fire killed Irene and her husband, who really suffered sexual abuse and why Raimunda and Irene were estranged. Interestingly, the police never come and intervene in the scene of crime and death in their village, since the tales of dead returning from their graves and living with real people were fairly common.
Volver (2006) Directed by Pedro Almodovar: Stunning Elements
1) Womanly theatrics
For Volver, Cruz's and her cleavage's performance have been undoubtedly critical. No Hollywood film has been able to flesh out the layers of Cruz's abilities as Almodovar, in this Academy nominated movie. Her performance as a working mother linked to so many women emotionally and spiritually, is a pure delight to watch. As Raimunda, Penelope portrays a woman who must walk past all her troubles with charm, gusto, panache and passion. On the other hand, Carmen Maura's ghostly appearance as the dead mother gives the dark tragedy an irreplaceable touch of humor, fun and warmth.
2) Poignant splash of colors in Volver
It's probably impossible to show the insides of Spain without color and Almodovar does it with pride. Having a Hitchcockian influence with the color red, Almodovar ascribes a significance of blood and passion in the film. Other Mediterranean hues such as green, teals, brown, pink and purple add more personality to the different women in their different life stages. The brighter and richer the colors appear in the film, the deeper Almodovar takes us into the interwoven complexities of the women's anxieties.
3) Almodovar's familiar territory with the feminine
Having the advantage of being familiar with the mental landscape of women and the remote yet exquisite landscape of Spain, Almodovar once again creates magic out of the themes well known to him. Raimunda is surrounded and guided physically and spiritually by women of three generations. Whether it is Paula her daughter, Sole her sister, her elderly aunt, her neighbor Augustine or Irene, her mother, who had returned from the dead to tie up the loose ends of all the women's lives. In a scene, a character Emilio sees blood on Raimunda's neck and asks her if she's fine. Raimunda simply says 'Women's troubles'. This phrase metaphorically and literally spells out the basis of the story.
4) Classic Almodovarian Technique
Extremely unlike his previous classics, Almodovar steers clear of elaborate misc-en-scene, parallel storylines, complex characters and flashbacks. He gives away the entire narrative to his main protégés – Penelope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Blanca Portillo, Lola Dueñas, Yohana Cobo and Chus Lampreave. Volver has also been called one of Almodovar's most sexually restrained and straightforward piece of work. We don't see even the slightest glimpse of innuendos and nuances of sexual game play that we previously experienced with Almodovar's earlier works 'Talk to Her', 'Bad Education' and 'Women on the verge of a nervous breakdown'.
5) Strong and direct themes
Almodovar refrains from exploring his favorite theme of city dwelling characters longing for uninterrupted peace and freedom. Through the four central women characters, Volver touches on the themes of the relationship between the dead and the living, familial obligations, incomplete and unfulfilled desires, incest, the complex bonds of friendship, murder, sexual abuse and terminal ailments. Why many critics call Volver a dark comedy drama is because there is a certain dark humor and the lack of seriousness with which the women are able to chug through their lives with zest.
Volver (2006) Directed by Pedro Almodovar: Trivia
- Volver competed for the Palme d'Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival and won two awards - Best Actress (shared by the female cast) and Best Screenplay, along with a standing ovation.
- Almodovar chose to hold the film's premiere was held in Puertollano, Spain, where the filming had taken place.
- Penelope Cruz was nominated for the 2006 Academy Award for Best Actress. She was the second Spanish woman ever to be nominated in that category.
- Carmen Maura and Pedro Almodovar came back together on celluloid with this film after 18 years. They had fallen apart professionally after 'The Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown'.
- The plot of Volver had already been planted in Almodovar's 11th film 'The flowers of my secret (1995). In that movie, the main character writes a novel about a woman whose husband attempts to rape her daughter, the daughter kills him and hides the corpse in her neighbor's restaurant freezer.